Air Traffic Control system update

29 August 2023

Statement from NATS CEO Martin Rolfe, 29 August

“I would like to apologise again for our technical failure yesterday. While we resolved the problem quickly, I am very conscious that the knock-on effects at such a busy time of year are still being felt by many people travelling in and out of the UK.

“I would like to reassure everyone that since yesterday afternoon all of our systems have been running normally to support airline and airport operations as they recover from this incident.

“NATS exists to allow everyone flying in UK airspace to do so safely. Our systems enable our air traffic controllers to deliver this service all year round. These have several levels of backup and allow us to manage around 2 million flights per year in some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world safely and efficiently.

“Very occasionally technical issues occur that are complex and take longer to resolve.  In the event of such an issue our systems are designed to isolate the problem and prioritise continued safe air traffic control.

“This is what happened yesterday. At no point was UK airspace closed but the number of flights was significantly reduced.

“Initial investigations into the problem show it relates to some of the flight data we received.  Our systems, both primary and the back-ups, responded by suspending automatic processing to ensure that no incorrect safety-related information could be presented to an air traffic controller or impact the rest of the air traffic system. There are no indications that this was a cyber-attack.

“We have well established procedures, overseen by the CAA, to investigate incidents. We are already working closely with them to provide a preliminary report to the Secretary of State for Transport on Monday. The conclusions of this report will be made public.

“I would like again to apologise to everyone who has been affected.”

28 August 2023

Statement at 19:30 UK time

A message from our Operations Director about today’s disruption.

Statement at 15:15 UK time

We have identified and remedied the technical issue affecting our flight planning system this morning.  We are now working closely with airlines and airports to manage the flights affected as efficiently as possible.  Our engineers will be carefully monitoring the system’s performance as we return to normal operations.

The flight planning issue affected the system’s ability to automatically process flight plans, meaning that flight plans had to be processed manually which cannot be done at the same volume, hence the requirement for traffic flow restrictions.  Our priority is always to ensure that every flight in the UK remains safe and we are sincerely sorry for the disruption this is causing. Please contact your airline for information on how this may affect your flight.

Statement at 14:20 UK time

This morning’s technical issue is affecting our ability to automatically process flight plans. Until our engineers have resolved this, flight plans are being input manually which means we cannot process them at the same volume, hence we have applied traffic flow restrictions.  Our technical experts are looking at all possible solutions to rectify this as quickly as possible.

Our priority is ensuring every flight in the UK remains safe and doing everything we can to minimise the impact. Please contact your airline for information on how this may affect your flight.  We are sincerely sorry for the disruption this is causing.

Statement at 12:40 UK time

We are continuing to work hard to resolve the technical issue. To clarify, UK airspace is not closed, we have had to apply air traffic flow restrictions which ensures we can maintain safety.

Statement at 12:10 UK time

We are currently experiencing a technical issue and have applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety. Engineers are working to find and fix the fault.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please check with your airline on the status of your flight. We will provide updates on for the latest news and on X – @NATS.


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